As college students, we are expected to categorize our future into a major: study the major, plan on the major, work on the major, live, breathe, and be the major. But having a major is expensive. Four-years-of-tuition expensive.
There’s a stigma against people who pay for college without a clear focus—the “undeclared majors.” Admittedly, I shared the same resentment against them, too, at first. College is beyond a financial investment, and not all of us have the resources to put all of our eggs in one basket. As much as we hate to admit it, the stigma held against undeclared majors is that of jealousy: Undeclared majors have the guts to admit they are lost.
I don’t know what you did in high school, but I didn’t get to do a whole lot of soul searching. Our generation has been pushed by our parents toward education so much that we’ve skipped the step of realizing what education means for ourselves. It has become a norm to go to college right after high school, leaving grad school as our true calling to education.
College should be seen as an independent, conscious decision. Instead, it is seen as a continuation of high school, grades 13 through 16. Most of us haven’t known our life’s path since we were three years old; we need time. Gap years after high school are OK. Gap years in the middle of college are OK. What is not OK is taking out loans to search our soul in an academic setting and then judge others who have the nerve to admit that’s what they’re doing.
There are two types of lost people: those who have no idea, and those who have too many ideas. Neither knows where their futures start.
During one of my classes, while discussing projects on our prospective career fields, one student simply said, “I have no idea.” She shared her fear of having no plan past her 22nd birthday (more than most of us), and she felt as if she was the only one who was lost.
But I was nodding while she spoke. My professor proceeded to sample the whole class on how we felt, and student after student sympathized and shared her fear. We’re all lost, to some degree—and about our degrees.
Career Services tries to appeal to the “no idea” lost students in class presentations. But as a “too many ideas” lost student, I’ve only come out of these presentations with 10 new careers I could get involved in—and 10 different majors—all for the same reasons. Career Services can’t charter our life maps. Choosing a major can seem like setting your future in stone. When you’re not even a legal adult, and you’re choosing which schools to apply to, it can be an intimidating decision. But your major is more of a trial and error: a prerequisite to your career, not a permanent path. It’s often said that adults change their careers several times.
At Emerson, students put themselves through a narrow curriculum and self-identify as career-oriented students, though at some point, we all question our education. Most of us will find ourselves in school again when we find a much more purposeful and personal reason for getting a specific education. We could save a lot of money, time, sleepless nights, and mental breakdowns if we gave ourselves time to go school for our own reasons, no matter when we find those reasons. This is probably why Emerson students are so involved in extracurriculars: to truly test out their major. There hasn’t been much time for real-world experience between senior year of high school and freshman year of college.
So while we all figure out the rest of our lives, cut the undeclared majors some slack. We might be the busy Emerson community, but we’re all a little lost here.